A couple of weeks before the turn of the year I wrote a comment under an article singing the praises of electric and hybrid cars, the usual ‘clean, green, sustainable, transport of the fuutre spiel. Now I did not get into the usual criticisms, poor range, length of time to recharge, massive upgrades to the electricity distribution system to support ‘fast chargers’ which are still painfully slow compared with pumps that pump liquid. Nor did I point out the technical problems that will beset these vehicles when they start to be used outside towns and away from the coastal strip. In short, they don’t do hills. OK I know some plank is going to say “Ah but regenerative braking systems mean they generate electricity when going down hills,” and OK that is true, but what is generated going down is a tiny fraction of what is used to haul car, driver, passengers and battery pack up.
Instead of all that I settled for pointing out that as well as electricity which is mostly generated by coal, other finite resources are essential to the manufacture of these electric vehicles which some stupid politicians say will totally replace fossil fuelled cars and trucks by 2040, (yes I might be talking about you Monsieur Macron you idiot, or you Mr. Treudeau, you plonker.) There are currently an estimated 1.4 billion cars and light goods vehicles on the roads of our planet, and there is not enough lithium in reserve stocks to make battery packs for a tenth of that number. And then there is cobalt, needed in far smaller quantities but a far less plentiful resource and most of the known reserves are controlled by China. And if they dominate the market in a resource the west needs they ain’t going to be giving the stuff away.
Naturally I was mocked and ridiculed for going against the official narrative that electric will smoothly replace gasoline over the next couple of decades. Fortunately I don’t take any more notice of the voices that bounce around the liberal echo chamber of the internet than I do of politicians who are trying to buy your vote so they can use it in the cause of enriching their paymasters, or of mainstream media, where the propaganda of the establishment is endlessly parroted.
It was of course gratifying to learn that people who matter agree with me. Today the Financial Times welcomed the New Year with a report that Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the private security giant intends to launch a $500m investment fund to capitalize on the rush to secure investments in the metals required for batteries that power electric cars.
Cobalt mining in Congo, child labour is common and slave labour possible (western companies contract out work to local agents,), workers rights and safety regulations are non existent. (Source: http://www.trwn.org/wp-content/ )
Prince, an adviser to president Trump and brother of White House official Betsy DeVos told the FT, “For all the talk of our virtual world, the innovation, you can’t build those vehicles without minerals that come from generally weird, hard-to-access places.”
He’s correct of course, and the more the world comes to rely on electronic technology, particularly mobile technologies, the more competition there will be for these finite resources. As I wrote back in 2010, for years due to pressure from the greeny – weeny, weirdie – beardie faction, because the mining and refining of these rare earth metals is a filthy and energy intensive process, the developed nations have been handing control of such vital resources to nations with are not exactly friendly to our governments or way of life.
Mining companies in China, Russia, India, Brazil and Australia have been investing billions into these essential metals as the electric vehicle industry expands, which include cobalt, neodymium, gold, tellurium and terbium as well as copper and lithium.
One of the largest investors has been China, with Chinese companies buying stakes in deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Chile this year. Mr Prince also runs a Hong Kong-listed security and logistics company that is backed by China’s state-owned Citic Group. –Financial Times
Prince’s new fund will operate in exploration and securing rights to as yet unknown deposits before selling them on to larger mining companies, and, Prince told the FT, will be looking to cash in its investments and devote the revenue to new projects within four or five years. his experience in providing private armies to secure assets in well known trouble spots should prove invaluable.
It is well known that Chinese companies have little interest in speculative exploration, which leads Prince believe creates a gap in the supply chain he hopes to fill.”
More than 60 percent for the world’s cobalt supply originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation plagues by tribal and political conflicts which has scared off western investment and has opened the door for Chinese companies including Jinchuan Group and China Molybdenum to pour billions into developing the sites. Apart from high altitude salt lakes in Chile, the onlt other known area from which lithium is easily extractable is Afghanistan, not the easiest place for foreign interests to operate.
Prince first came to public attention as the founder of Blackwater – the world’s most famous private military contractor which has been targeted with lawsuits alleging civilian deaths in Iraq, including a 2007 incident in Nisour Square, Baghdad, where 17 civilians were killed and 20 injured after Blackwater guards claim their convoy was ambushed. And FBI investigation concluded that at least 14 of the 17 Iraqis were shot without cause.
Since selling Backwater in 2010, Prince has been at the helm of Frontier Services Group, which provides logistics support and security services to companies operating in politically unstable countries. They have provided anti-piracy operations to Somalia and security for oil companies operating in strife – torn South Sudan. Prince himself is a former US Navy SEAL, now resident in Abu Dhabi, his long established business links with China will certainly give him a head start in this new venture. A bauxite (aluminium ore,) mine in Guinea this year secured a contract to supply Chinese state – owned aluminium smelter with ore.
MORE ON RARE EARTH METALS AND ELECTRIC CARS
Rare-earth metals in magnets for electric-car motors
A Scarcity of Rare Metals Is Hindering Green Technologies
Rare Earth Elements: A Beginners Guide
Information on the chemical nature, physical properties and uses of rare earth metals.
Rare Earth Elements And Their Uses
Information on mining, extraction and refining processes.